Cancers and Tumors

Spinal Tumors Treatment

At Seattle Children's, your child receives care from a team made up of specialists from many areas of the hospital. Our team includes staff from several divisions at Seattle Children's:

Spinal Tumors Treatment Options

Tumors of the spine are either cancerous (malignant) or not cancerous (benign). Malignant tumors usually are treated by cancer specialists and surgeons. Benign tumors usually are treated only by surgeons.

The main treatment for both types of spinal tumors is surgery to remove part or all of the tumor. But treatment for cancerous tumors also includes drug therapy (chemotherapy) and radiation therapy.

Your child's doctors will take into account several factors when deciding on which treatments to recommend, including:

  • How old is your child?
  • Where is the tumor located?
  • What size is the tumor?
  • What type of tumor (benign or malignant) does your child have?

Surgery for Spinal Tumors

Benign spinal tumors usually involve bone. They often are located in the front or back of the spine. They can also be in the spinal canal or spinal cord, which makes them more difficult to remove. Larger tumors are harder to remove than smaller tumors.

Doctors treat benign spinal tumors by removing the tumor. During surgery, they may use a bone graft to help your child's bones join together while healing. Doctors may also attach instruments, such as a rod and screws, to help prevent the development of a curve (scoliosis) in your child's back.

Cancerous tumors usually are in the spinal cord or in the bone. Treating them usually requires chemotherapy and radiation therapy as well as surgery to remove the tumor. In certain cases, your doctor may recommend proton therapy.

In general, surgery for cancerous spinal tumors removes more tissue than surgery for benign spinal tumors. This surgery happens before or after chemotherapy or radiation therapy. Most surgeries to remove these tumors include the replacement of parts of the spine bones called vertebral bodies along with a spine fusion. The doctor may use bone grafts, instruments such as screws and plates, or a combination to help make your child's spine stable. As the body heals, the bones join together.

Sometimes, doctors can use microscopes and other highly technical instruments to remove spinal tumors. These microsurgical techniques use smaller cuts (incisions) than other types of procedures. Your child's doctor will talk with you about which kind of procedure may be best for your child.